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Online shoppers favor restaurant gift cards

Restaurant gift cards will be more popular than any other gift cards among online shoppers this holiday season, a recent survey determined.

But many of those Web-wandering consumers will wait until the last minute to buy and then will demand virtual options and the ability to personalize their selections.

The annual “Pre-Holiday Online Shopper Gift Card Survey,” sponsored by digital gifting support vendor CashStar Inc., found that about 67 percent of the respondents who said they would buy gift cards planned to buy one for a restaurant up from 59 percent in 2009.

In comparison, 64 percent of the 842 online shoppers polled in November said they would purchase general retail gift cards while 29 percent said they would opt for movie and other entertainment cards.

Not surprisingly, 89 percent of the online shoppers surveyed said they would be more likely to purchase a gift card if an incentive, such as a “give one, get one” deal, was offered.

EARLIER: Restaurants target givers with gift card extras

Overall, the survey by online pollster Zoomerang determined that 54 percent of U.S. online shoppers plan to give gift cards and that nearly a quarter of those will wait until the week leading up to the holiday for which they are making the purchase.

The survey did not indicate the per-gift spending appetite of respondents tied to such card purchases, which may be down a little this year, according to other research.

EARLIER: Restaurant gift card sales show restraint

According to survey findings, 70 percent of the respondents said they would buy from a different brand than their first choice if that merchant does not offer an electronic gift card option for last-minute purchases. Such virtual gift cards give shoppers the ability to buy online and send via e-mail a gift in a specified denominational amount that can be printed out by the recipient for use or displayed on a cell phone for redemption.

Restaurant operators too are embracing such electronic or virtual gift cards because they permit last-minute sales, offer greater personalization options, and help build the online connection with brand loyalists.

The ability to personalize electronic gift cards with text, photos, audio or even video was highly rated by many of the respondents. About 83 percent said their image of a restaurant or retail brand improves when those brands offer such customization options. Thirty-four percent of the respondents reported being interested in appending a short video to their electronic gift card.

Convenience is driving consumers to choose electronic gift cards, with 71 percent said that buying virtual cards online is more convenient than picking up plastic cards at their brick-and-mortar store.

More consumers are expected to be shopping online this year than last, survey data indicated, with 41 percent of respondents said they would do so this year versus 33 percent who answered similarly in 2009.

“The first billion-dollar Cyber Monday signifies a true milestone for e-commerce and its role as the channel for holiday giving,” said CashStar’s chief executive David Stone. “As the holidays approach, eGift cards extend online sales for retailers by a minimum of three days, as they are not dependent on shipping deadlines and cut-off dates.

“Equally important,” he continued, “eGift cards also increase brand satisfaction and customer loyalty. In fact, an overwhelming 83 percent of survey respondents said if their favorite retailer offered a personalized eGift card option, it would improve their image of that retailer. During this most critical sales season, retailers and restaurants without an eGift card offering are doing themselves a major disservice.”

Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected].

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